Clutch Performers

Top wide receivers in playoff history

Being a Clutch Performer means coming through for your team in key moments and throughout your career. That can mean you either come up with a big play when the game is on the line, or you're the foundation on which your team builds success.

In honor of the Castrol EDGE Clutch Performers of the Year, we take a weekly look at some players that have been instrumental to their team's success in the Super Bowl era, through the postseason and beyond. Here, we focus on wide receivers.

5. Reggie Wayne

Wayne is the most recent player to make this top five. It's really no secret that Reggie Wayne is this good. He was a superb route runner and arguably had the surest hands of his era. But what really sets Wayne apart was his steady consistency throughout his postseason career.

The six-time Pro Bowler had a stellar Wild Card game against the Denver Broncos in 2004, where he totaled 10 catches, 221 receiving yards and two touchdowns. If that one game isn't enough, he ranks second in career postseason receptions with 93 and is fourth in 1,254 playoff receiving yards.

When the Super Bowl XLI champ called it a career, he left with 14,345 receiving yards and currently ranks 10th in career receptions with 1,070.


4. John Stallworth

Stallworth was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002, and for good reason. Stallworth was a cornerstone of the Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty, helping the team on their way to winning Super Bowls IX, X, XIII and XIV.

Stallworth consistently showed up for the postseason. He has eight consecutive playoff games with a receiving TD. That's an NFL record. He also has a massive 12 career postseason TDs. That's second all-time behind another receiver we'll talk about later.

His career receiving yards (8,723) and TDs (63) ranks only behind Hines Ward in Steelers history. But football is a team sport, and much of the Steelers' success in the 70s should also be credited to the next receiver on this list.


3. Lynn Swann

It's difficult to rank Swann against Stallworth. Both were instrumental in their team's success and Stallworth's numbers are more impressive. But this is a list about clutch performers. While Stallworth definitely performed, it was Swann that came away with the memorable moments.

Swann suffered a concussion in the AFC Championship Game before Super Bowl X. Dallas Cowboys safety Cliff Harris had some words about Swann that were ... less than kind. That became Swann's motivation. He not only had a memorable catch in that game. He had several, ending up with 161 yards, a touchdown and Super Bowl MVP honors.

He also had this 18-yard TD in Super Bowl XIII to give the Steelers the lead.

His stats may be overshadowed by the others on this list, but Swann's ability for big plays in the postseason put him this high.


2. Michael Irvin

Outspoken? Sure. Flamboyant? Fair. But when it came down to it, you either loved or hated Michael Irvin for one reason: He made plays.

Irvin was the 11th overall pick by Dallas in 1988, and success followed him from Miami. Irvin wasn't fast; in fact, he might have been the slowest playing of this five. But while he might not burn past defenders, he was one of the most physical receivers the game has seen. If the ball was in the air and there was a fight for it, Irvin would win every time.

Irvin's relentless field work was on full display in the playoffs. The Hall of Famer is the Cowboys' all-time postseason leader in receptions (87) and receiving yards (1,315) and has eight TDs. Irvin might not have any MVPs on his resume, but he has five Pro Bowls and is a three-time Super Bowl champion.

In terms of all-time lists, Irvin's total puts him behind just one receiver in playoff history. Who that is shouldn't be a mystery.


1. Jerry Rice

When it comes to receiving rankings, especially in the playoffs, this one is pretty much automatic.

In terms of straight numbers, Rice is untouchable in the postseason. Rice's career postseason totals are 151 receptions, 2,245 receiving yards, 22 receiving TDs and eight 100-yard receiving games. All of these stats are NFL records. Here's Rice's numbers in Super Bowls: 33 catches, 589 yards, eight receiving TDs. All of these are also NFL records. Rice is the only player with multiple postseason games with three receiving TDs.

Rice was dangerous everywhere on the field. From deep post routes to short five-yard slants, Rice could take it to the house any time he touched the ball. The three-time Super Bowl champ was named Super Bowl XXIII MVP, where he tallied 11 catches, 215 yards and one TD. He was also named offensive player of the year in 1987 and 1993.

By any measure, Jerry Rice was simply the best the game has ever seen.


Honorable Mentions

Buffalo Bills great and NFL Hall of Famer Andre Reed never won a ring, but he helped his team get into four consecutive Super Bowls. He ranks fifth all-time in postseason receiving yards with 1,229 and also has nine postseason receiving TD.

Larry Fitzgerald is the only current player mentioned here and he is sure to be a Hall of Famer some day. He just finished his 13th season by leading the league in receptions. The 10-time Pro Bowler hasn't won it all, but he totaled 30 catches, 546 yards and seven receiving TDs in the 2008 postseason alone. If the Cardinals had won, he surely would've been Super Bowl XLIII MVP with seven catches, 127 yards and two touchdowns in the game.

Follow Daniel Williams on Twitter @_danielwilliams.

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